With the recent spate of Marvel Studios films erring toward the awfully serious (obviously not counting Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or Thor: Ragnarok, itself basically a Guardians movie), it's always enjoyable when things get a little less heavy-handed and more outlandishly fun. And that's what the Ant Man series has already become known for, thanks to celebrated character actor and all-around charmer Paul Rudd as the onetime thief Scott Lang.

Previously, Lang and his buds Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Pym's daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) foiled the evil Yellowjacket, a villain who tried to turn Pym's shrink-a-majig technology into weaponized paraphernalia for shadowy governments and the like. This time, however, it's a rescue mission when we learn that Pym's wife Janet (Michelle Pfieffer) was thrust into the quantum void (now that's small, baby!) 30-ish years ago, but maybe she's still alive even though she'd obviously have no access to food or water, but whatever—this is Marvel, motherfucker.

The bad news, though, is that Lang is stuck serving out a two-year house arrest sentence because of his escapades in 2016's Captain America: Civil War (the government has laws that work against superheroes doing superhero stuff). But when a mysterious baddie called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) shows up to try and steal the aforementioned Pym tech, Lang and the gang have to hit the streets to do stuff. Caught up? Good.

Rudd, who also co-wrote the script, is as wonderful as ever, a great combination of magnetic jokester and former criminal with a heart of gold. His posse (played here by Michael Peña, Tip "TI" Harris and some guy who isn't a celebrity yet so who cares?) enters the fray as well, and the race against the clock begins because for some reason they only have two hours to get the wife out of the void.

If this feels like a lot of exposition, it is. Ant Man and The Wasp is, in fact, mostly characters explaining things between fight scenes that, while fun, most often don't really need to happen. If these people can shrink and enlarge at will, why do they ever bother fighting to retrieve things instead of sneaking in and out? It's certainly thrilling to watch Ghost phase in and out of existence, but her backstory feels more like a tacked-on bit of trivia than a true motivator. Alas, as well, for the ultra-talented Laurence Fishburne's appearance is minimal and tangental at best; Douglas is onscreen way too much and Lilly is dimensionless and bland.

Thank goodness for Rudd, then, as he can carry just about anything and look great while doing it. We know that looks shouldn't matter, but let's face it—they do. And in the end, we get another little slice of the overall Marvel universe, a respite from the melodrama and another summertime jam in a nice, cool theater.

7
+Rudd rules; tiny stuff is so fun
-Why are they doing this stuff again? A ridiculous reason? OK, cool.

Ant Man and The Wasp
Directed by Peyton Reed
With Rudd, Lilly, Douglas, Peña, John-Kamen and Pfieffer
Violet Crown, Regal, PG-13, 118 min.